Lawrence Washington, George’s older half-brother and guardian, fell victim to tuberculosis and doctors in Virginia recommended a change of climate. The family’s thoughts must have immediately gone to Barbados where there was a long-standing medical tradition of treating lung infections. As well, Lawrence’s wife, one of the prominent Fairfaxes of Virginia, was related through marriage to Gedney Clarke, resident in Barbados. The two brothers sailed from the Potomac River, through the Chesapeake, on the brigantine the “Success” on a rough non-stop journey to Barbados, arriving on November 2, 1751. Because smallpox was in the Clarke household where they were to reside, they had to rent a house, choosing one on the outskirts of Bridgetown, on an escarpment overlooking the main harbour, Carlisle Bay.
George kept a Diary while on the island and the pleasures and problems of his two-month stay are carefully recorded. He commented on the hospitality of the islanders and with reason, since he and his brother were royally entertained in some of the splendid plantation houses that existed on Barbados. Dinner invitations interspersed with theatre events, fireworks displays and horseback rides in the countryside kept the enthusiastic George very occupied. However, Lawrence was not responding to the treatment of the local doctors and this caused great concern. Also, George himself fell ill with smallpox and was laid up for three weeks. He was scarred, but more importantly was given immunity for life from this virulent disease. In later years when smallpox decimated the American revolutionary troops their leader, General George Washington, went unscathed. As well he saved the lives of countless numbers of his troops by ordering one of the first mass inoculations against the disease. What path could American historical events have taken if he had not acquired immunity ?
Lawrence became worse and he decided to move to a cooler Bermuda, where his health deteriorated even more.He later went home to Mount Vernon where he died in July 1752.George went home alone, departing the island on December 22, 1751.As historian Jack Warren has written“ George Washington’s visit to Barbados proved to be a turning point in his life – a dividing line between his intensely provincial and ordinary youth and a young adulthood marked by extraordinary energy and ambition, in which he began the ascent that would make him the transcendent hero of American history.” (see article "Perfectly Ravished" ) Image Library